Keep Calm. Panic! Is Coming

Photo by Shervin Lainez
Photo by Shervin Lainez

Keep calm. Panic! At The Disco is coming to Starlight Theatre on July 20.

Panic! is touring with fellow pop rock band Weezer.

This is Panic!’s first official U.S. tour since the band released their brand new, Frank Sinatra-inspired album, Death of a Bachelor, which debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts earlier this year.

The musician and mastermind behind Panic! Brendon Urie was inspired to create the album while on tour for his 2013 album Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die.

Urie said he has admired Sinatra since childhood.

“As I’ve gotten older I’ve gained a deeper appreciation for the people that wrote the songs for him and for his use of his voice and the way he had to relate to everything,” Urie said. “I wanted springboard off that and take cues from jazz as I wrote the music.”

The first song Urie wrote for the album was gospel-infused “Hallelujah.” He wasn’t necessarily writing specifically for an album at the time, but once the song emerged it set the tone for the entire process.

The song “LA Devotee” is an homage to his beloved hometown in California.

The rest of the album varies in tone and theme, exploring Urie’s interest in Sinatra alongside his love for Queen.

Panic! fans are sure to enjoy the new and interesting sounds being cranked out.

You can check out a music video from Death of a Bachelor here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R03cqGg40GU.

You can find tickets for July 20 on Starlight’s website: https://www.kcstarlight.com/events/event-detail-production/weezer-panic-at-the-disco

 

The Dawning of Aquarius

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Take a trip back in time with the groovy tunes of the 1960s and 70s at Quality Hill Playhouse’s The Dawning of Aquarius.

Running July 8 through Aug. 7, The Dawning of Aquarius follows the evolution of popular songs in an era that produced icons.

Fans of 1960s romantic tunes will recognize the music of Connie Francis (“Where the Boys Are”), The Beatles (“Yesterday”) and The Supremes (“Stop! In the Name of Love”).

Political turmoil served as great inspiration for songs by Paul Simon (“Bridge Over Troubled Water”) and Aretha Franklin (“Respect”).

And it wouldn’t be a complete musical trip through the 60s and 70s without hits by Cher (“Gypsys, Tramps and Thieves”), Credence Clearwater Revival (“Proud Mary”) and Elton John (“Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me”).

The Dawning of Aquarius is the brainchild of the Playhouse’s Producing Artistic Director J. Kent Barnhart. The nearly 30 songs will be performed by Christina Burton, Jessalyn Kincaid, Tim Scott and LeShea Wright. Kyle Brown will be on drums and Brian Wilson on bass.

Quality Hill Playhouse is located at 303 W. 10th Street, Kansas City, MO. For tickets, call 816-421-1700 or visit www.QualityHillPlayhouse.com.

‘Big River’ Offers A Big Wow Factor

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A re-imagined old classic is being served up at Musical Theater Heritage like a slice of authentic Americana and audiences are loving it.

Big River, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” is a familiar tale based on Mark Twain’s book about Huck Finn and his pals. The musical, adapted from Twain’s book by William Hauptman, took the theater scene by storm when it won 7 Tony Awards in 1985 including Best Musical and Best Original Score by Roger Miller.

Despite its great success, the masterpiece has been unjustly forgotten for the most part, aside from a 2003 Broadway revival and some smaller productions. MTH is giving audiences a rare chance to experience an amazing show.

Big River” is set in the midwest pre-Civil War. Poor Huck Finn (played by New York actor Devon Norris) is trying his best to be a good boy and follow the rules set out by his guardians Widow Douglas (Nancy Nail) and Mrs. Watson (Lindsay James). But it’s tough when you are an adventure craving young man. And Huck’s shenanigans certainly aren’t stopped by his even more ornery friend Tom Sawyer (Preston O’ffill), who has a flare for the dramatic and a tendency to unwittingly cause trouble.

Many great songs in the production come from the “growing pains” Huck has finding his way through the world with his friends by his side including “Do You Wanna Go To Heaven,” “The Boys,” “I, Huckleberry Me” and others.

Some silly songs added in the mix keep the audience laughing like “Guv’ment,” “Hand For The Hog,” “The Royal Nonesuch” and “Arkansas/How Blest We are.”

But it’s the serious songs that will take your breath away. After Huck escapes the grip of his deadbeat, alcoholic Pap (Kip Niven), he heads down the Mississippi River and soon joins up with his friend Jim (played ,Justin McCoy) who also happens to be a runaway slave.

Floating down the big river, Huck and Jim feel a sense of freedom that they’ve never known before. Norris and McCoy both have beautiful voices in their own right. But put them together and their harmonies will make a grown, tough man cry.

When they belt out the lyrics to “Muddy Waters,” it would be quite the task to avoid smiling. As they sing, “I’ve got a need for going some place. I’ve got a need to climb upon your back and ride,” you can feel the authenticity in their voices. Freedom at last.

More solemn moments lead to songs like “River In The Rain” during which no one around me had dry eyes.

The lyrics go,

“If you’re on the run
Winding some place just tryin’ to find the sun
Whether the sunshine whether the rain
River I love you just the same.”

The words communicate a sense of pain and hope. I have never heard it sung more beautifully.

When Jim and Huck come across a boat on the river carrying runaway slaves who were captured, we are offered a haunting version of “The Crossing” led by vocalist Bri Woods. The audience was captivated, leaning in as the words rang out.

Big River” is not just a show you go see. It’s the type of show you experience and it changes you.

Go see “Big River” because it gives us a theatrical glimpse into our American history. Go see it if you love theater. Go see it if you love music. But by all means, go see it. This is one show everyone will want to see.

Big River” runs through June 26 at MTH in Crown Center. For more information, visit www.mthkc.com.

‘Annie Get Your Gun’ – A Classic Re-imagined At MTH

ANNIE THREE (17)She’s feisty. She’s frumpy. And she never misses her mark.

Sharpshooter Annie Oakley and her on again off again romance with her rival Frank Butler have got fans laughing and cheering with delight at Musical Theater Heritage’s production of the classic, “Annie Get Your Gun.”

MTH, in Crown Center, has reinvented the 1947 musical by Irving Berlin by doing what the theater company does best – stripping it down to the basics of the story line and highlighting the music. And what a score they have to work with!

Annie Get Your Gun” has more hit songs than any other show in Broadway history. Odds are high that you’ve heard one songs before and didn’t even realize it.

There’s No Business Like Show Business,” “Anything You Can Do,” “I Got Lost In His Arms” and “You Can’t Get A Man With A Gun” are some of the more well-known tunes.

As Frank and Annie, or Annie and Frank as she would prefer, vie for the top spot as the best sharpshooter in their traveling variety show and the world, they end up making their way into each others hearts.

But wowing a man doesn’t come easy for the redneck, gun-totin’ Annie who comes to the realization that you can’t get a man with a gun. And Frank isn’t so keen on an opinionated woman who isn’t afraid to let him when she can do something better than with, which Annie might suggest is all the time.

Hats off to Shelby Floyd who plays the bold and mighty Annie. Her powerful vocals that somehow range from low notes all the way up to operatic notes give Annie that extra something, putting her character over the top.

Sam Wright is a great Frank, putting on just the right amount ego into his character you want to smack him in the face one moment but then you change your mind when the sweet comes out.

The entire large cast is just perfect. It’s easy to forget you are watching a play rather than just Buffalo Bill’s variety show.

The kids who play Annie’s little brother and sisters are heart-melting – Delilah Pellow as Little Jake, Josephine Pellow as Nellie and Emerson Pereira as Jessie.

Annie Get Your Gun” is the perfect show to get you all riled and having a good time. See it with a date so you can poke them and giggle when something funny happens. Or see it with a friend and you’ll have a new collection of inside jokes for weeks to come.

Annie Get Your Gun” is showing now through April 24 at MTH.

You can find more info about the show and get your tickets at www.musicaltheaterheritage.com.

Don’t Miss ‘An Evening With Cole Porter’

IMG_1315A special engagement at Musical Theater Heritage has audiences giving standing ovations. March 3-13,MTH, in Crown Center, is celebrating the music of Cole Porter with their production “An Evening With Cole Porter.”

Porter, who lived from 1891 to 1964, was a popular, but rather quirky American song writer. Born into a rich family, he spent much of his younger years entertaining all of his rich friends with his songs.

It wasn’t until later in life that he began writing songs for the theater. It’s been said that Porter never found true love during his lifetime, but he sure kept trying. It’s hard to tell what truly inspired his many romantic tunes. He thought those who asked about his songwriting process were a bore. So, he told a different story nearly every time the topic came up.

Whatever the inspiration was, his songs continue to hit heart strings even today. Even if you don’t recognize his name, you are probably family with his songs. “Night and Day,” “Let’s Do It,” “I Get A Kick Out Of You,” “In The Still Of The Night,” “You’re Sensational” and “Just One Of Those Things” are just a few of his songs that have been greatly popular.

All of these songs and more are performed in MTH’s “An Evening With Cole Porter.”

The production, written by MTH’s Executive Director George Harter, celebrates both the music and the life of Porter. Funny stories and lively choreography make the evening even more enjoyable.

A cast of eight and an on-stage band bring the songs and stories to life.

Kansas City favorite Lauren Braton charms audiences with her silky smooth and still a little sassy voice. She never disappoints.

Ben Gulley, an award winning operatic tenor who was a member of The American Tenors, brings both a beautiful voice and a fun personality to the stage. At one point, he even whips out an instrument and starts playing with the band. It’s hard not to love multi-talented artists.

Of course, Harter, as host for the evening, brings his plethora of knowledge about musical theater history to the stage in a fun and interesting way. This production, he even gets in on some of the singing and dancing.

There are so many fun moments during this show it was no surprise the audience members on opening night were on their feet for a standing ovation almost as the last notes were being sung.

That should tell you a little something about this show – it’s not one you will want to miss.

Hurry on down to MTH for “An Evening With Cole Porter.” It’s a short engagement, only running through March 13. But it’s so worth fitting into your schedule if you are a lover of good music.

Find more info about MTH and how to get tickets at http://www.musicaltheaterheritage.com/.

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